Saturday, February 12, 2011

Three Projects - Three Videos

This is an update I've been meaning to get on this blog for too long. The follow is a set of video projects we've put together from some of our various projects in cultivating our community. Many of the people who are reading this may already have seen these videos on our facebook group.

This first video was our first Community Cultivation project. As most good things, this project started spontaneously with a handful of friends, an idea and a lot of generosity and positive energy. The idea was thrown on the table only about a week beforehand and most of the planning didn't happen until that afternoon when we all converged on a small backyard on Alexander St. The garden was a gift to the residents of the house in exchange for their grace and hospitality over the preceding month.

With lofty ideals and a few basic tools we set to designing a small 4 foot by 15 foot mini-swale double-reach garden bed. The double-reach, mini-swale design is a simple and practical setup that combines the great passive water collection of a mini-swale with the functionality of a double-reach bed. The four foot width of the bed allows for access to the center areas of the garden bed from either side, thus "double-reach". Making short runs of these double-reach beds is idea for establishing miniature swales. To do this, we simply had to arrange the bed so that it was level from end to end and that it was facing an up hill slope. At this particular site we had the blessing of a neighboring roof that drained onto a sloped yard with a decent grade right into our new 15 foot long passive catchment system.
We dug our level trench using a classic leveling tool known as a bunyip. It's basically two yardsticks with a length of clear flexible hose running between them. You fill the hose with water and food coloring and leave a little air on both ends where the yardsticks are. The food coloring is so that you can clearly see the waterline on either side of the hose. You test the level by looking at the water level on each yardstick. Once the waterline rests at the same place on both yardsticks you know both spots are level with each other. It takes some time to master but it's a very effective and inexpensive way to find a level between two points.

After establishing the level and digging out our trench we mounded the soil atop the four foot width of the soon to be double-reach garden bed directly down slope of the trench. We then covered the whole thing in cardboard which acts as a biodegradable weed barrier. On top of that we added compost and mulch. The strange pictures you see of fleshy looking things on the end of rakes are kombucha scobys that we got from a local kombucha brewer. We've found the active microbes in these are a great kick start to compost. 

With cardboard and compost down, all we had left to do was cover the whole thing in straw mulch and plant it up! 

Given all the excitement, we also took the opportunity to trim some nearby overgrown shrubs, install a compost pile and plant a large elderberry. Follow it all up with a nice potluck of local, homegrown foods and it's no surprise things kept growing from here!

Second, we have a video of the Sunflower Co-op Permablitz event. Check our blog archive for a write-up on this event and more pictures. 

And finally, our very fun aquaponics video that shows the power of community coming together to explore a do-it-yourself means of food production that goes beyond the kitchen garden.

As our exploration of permaculture, aquaponics and Community Cultivation continues there are sure to be more videos to come. Spring is on the horizon and we've many more projects are in the works so stay tuned for new posts, new videos and new events you can help us cultivate!